New year, new chemical sunscreen findings from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), confirming that six of the most common UV screeners—the main players in shielding UVA and UVB rays—are absorbed into the bloodstream, and some can stick around for a matter of weeks.
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But before we hit the big red panic button, here’s what we know:
The fact that sunscreen ingredients are absorbed into the skin is actually nothing new. In fact, the FDA administered a pilot study that was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association last May and found that four major UV screeners—avobenzone, oxybenzone, octocrylene, and ecamsule—were all absorbed into the blood after a single application, prompting the FDA to ask sunscreen manufactures to investigate those four (along with eight other common chemicals) with a November 2019 deadline.
Following this, many manufacturers instead called out the FDA for “unrealistic” results, as participants were asked to reapply sunscreen every two hours for four consecutive days, which may not mirror how often consumers actually apply sun protection.
In reply, the FDA followed up on Tuesday with a brand new study, also published in JAMA, this time analyzing three of the UV screeners from the original study (avobenzene, oxybenzone and octocrylene) in addition to three new ones: homosalate, octisalate and octinoxate.
The New Study:
Pretty much backs up the old one: yes, sunscreen ingredients are absorbed into the bloodstream. No, this doesn’t necessarily mean that they are dangerous or harmful.
To determine this, researchers asked 24 women and 24 men with varying Fitzpatrick Skin Types (only types II through IV were analyzed) to apply sunscreen to 75% of their bodies, which the researchers call the “area outside of normal swimwear,” which they did every day for four days. Like in the pilot study, the sunscreens ranged from sprays to lotions and each contained one or more of the six ingredients in question.
Unlike the pilot study, however, participants applied sunscreen just once on day one, and then applied four times, every two hours for the following three days. Blood samples were taken several times each day and over the course of the following weeks.
After the first day only, all six ingredients appeared in the bloodstream above the FDA’s given safety level (0.5 ng/mL) and continued to increase with each reapplication. After a full week (remember, sunscreen applications ended on day four), all six UV screeners were still above that safety threshold and two ingredients—homosalate and oxybenzone—still hovered above in high concentrations after three full weeks.
While this could seem a bit frightening, the researchers summarize our main point best: “These findings do not indicate that individuals should refrain from the use of sunscreen.” These UV screeners in question may enter the bloodstream, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they cause physical harm to us. The research team implores the industry to dive deeper into the effects that UV screeners in chemical sunscreens can have on our bodies.
According to the National Cancer Institute, melanoma is one of the most common cancer types and the Skin Cancer Foundation warns that one out of five Americans will develop some form of skin cancer during their life, though “regular daily use of an SPF 15 or higher sunscreen reduces the risk of developing melanoma by 50 percent.”
For more updates on sunscreen safety and FDA regulations, stay tuned here!
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